August 28, 2011

August 28, 2011
Checked Bags Stolen and Damaged

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Sunday and I hope you are having a safe and great weekend. Dab the AIDS Bear and I are still resting while getting well for our next adventures.

Yesterday, I discussed saving money when you are traveling by shipping your items ahead of time. There is also another reason for doing this. There are sometimes problems with checked baggage being lost or stolen.

Don't Blame the TSA

If you contact the airlines when something goes missing, the knee jerk response is usually to tell you to file a complaint with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Now, I may be lukewarm toward the TSA's many counterintuitive security procedures, but airlines love to use the TSA as a scapegoat. You may have heard about a handful of crooked TSA workers who were caught pilfering bags, but this is an insignificant few, what with the agency employing 45,000 screeners across the United States. And remember, TSA screeners are videotaped during the inspection process, so it's unlikely an employee would want to risk losing his or her job.

On the other hand, airlines delegate the loading and unloading of baggage to airports that use job contractors with hiring standards nowhere near as stringent as those of the TSA. That's not to say all baggage handlers are bad, just that the TSA is not the weakest link.

Exceptions Are the Rule

Now here is the real kicker. If an item is broken or goes missing, you will need to file a claim with an airline. But as you will see from every airline's contract of carriage, the list of exclusions for liability is a mile long. For example, take a look at American Airlines' contract:

"American does not accept in or as checked baggage any of the following items: antiques, artifacts, artwork, books and documents, china, computers and other electronic equipment, computer software, fragile items (including child/infant restraint devices such as strollers and car seats) jewelry, silverware.

"American does not accept these items in or as checked baggage and assumes no responsibility or liability for such items, [emphasis added] regardless of whether American knew or should have known of the presence of such items in checked or transferred baggage. If any such items are lost, damaged or delayed, you will not be entitled to any reimbursement under American's standard baggage liability."

The airlines are well-protected when it comes to expensive items inside your checked suitcase. Unfortunately, the only way to be safe is to bring these items in your carry-on luggage. I understand that can be limiting.

Ship and Save

Here is my suggestion: I travel around 50 times every year, so it is inevitable that an airline will eventually end up misplacing a few of my bags. With that in mind, I rarely checked a piece of luggage on domestic flights and I also have essentials and expensive items in my check on baggage.

Instead, I mostly have my bags shipped in advance directly to my hotel via FedEx, UPS or one of a dozen other dedicated luggage shipping services. Expensive items can be insured, and you have both a tracing department and responsive customer service to deal with any problems that should arise.

Hope these tips help when you have a problem traveling. Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab